It’s wonderfully cold and snowy in Vermont, weather that gives me hope that winter hasn’t entirely disappeared from our planet. I thought that this would be a good time to replace my header photo — the one of a stack of books outside on a balmy autumn day — with a more seasonal shot, showing the book situated cozily indoors.
Vermont is beautiful in the snow, but Edward Hopper didn’t like cold weather, and so we have no Hopper watercolors of the White River looking truly white. For those kinds of pictures we have to look to Aldro Hibbard and Willard Metcalf, who painted en plein air even in frigid weather and left us some gorgeous winter scenes, some of them in Vermont, with rivers and brooks streaming through islands of ice.
Edward and Josephine Hopper spent their winters in New York City’s Greenwich Village, at 3 Washington Square North. Their residence, a walk-up on the top floor, comprised living quarters and two studios, Edward’s in the front and Jo’s in the rear of the building. They lived there from the time of their marriage, in 1924, until they died, Edward in 1967 and Jo less than a year later.
Presumably the Hoppers kept reasonably warm, with both a fireplace and a cast-iron pot belly stove, made by the W. M. Crane Company, but they had to bring coal up from the basement, either using the dumbwaiter or walking up four flights–a climb of 74 steps.
The building was and is owned by New York University, and although the space has been used for offices for many years, some of the accoutrements of the Hoppers’ home are still there — the coal-burning stove (sans stovepipe), Edward’s etching press and easel, and a few pieces of furniture. A few years ago I signed up for a group tour of 3 Washington Square, with fellow alums from Columbia University, and I took these pictures then. Note that the place looks pretty much the same as it did in 1947, when Bernice Abbott took the famous photo that’s now hanging over the fireplace. Even at his most successful, Hopper remained frugal, and his and Jo’s homes were sparsely furnished, in keeping with their rather Spartan lifestyle.
The Hoppers also had a cookstove, a York range with burners and an oven, but it’s hard to imagine preparing meals in the tiny “kitchen.” It’s a stretch to even use the term for this cramped space, divided by the narrow hallway that runs through the center of the apartment, with the stove on one side and a small sink and half-sized Frigidaire on the other. No wonder Jo hated to cook! I suspect that the “Do not touch” signs placed by NYU would have met with her enthusiastic approval.
Mike and I — no Spartans we! — have a Vermont Castings stove that we use for atmosphere and extra warmth on really chilly nights. It runs on propane and is certainly easier to operate and probably a lot more efficient than the Hopper’s cast-iron coal stove. But it nevertheless reminds me of him, and so I thought it would be another good setting for a photo of the book. Since Edward Hopper is here in Vermont this winter, figuratively speaking, the least I can do is to keep him warm.
Today, while taking a walk on the road that runs up the hill from our house, we found evidence in an abandoned shed that some of our long-ago neighbors had something in common with Hopper, at least in the stove department.
And a postscript:
While you’re keeping warm on these cold winter evenings, I can recommend a great book to read while you’re curled up by the fire: Edward Hopper in Vermont.